Even Atheists Agree: We’re Immoral
August 07, 2017
Social researchers have found that atheists are generally considered more capable of bad behavior than any other group.
In a letter submitted in June and published Monday by the journal Nature Human Behaviour, a group of psychologists and social scientists set about to prove that “anti-atheist prejudice”—or, more accurately, that a predeliction toward religious faith—exists throughout the world, even in strictly secular nations. Their study measured the attitudes of 3,256 people in 13 countries on five continents, and in particular, asked the participants about a fictional character who is up to no good.
The evildoer tortured animals as a child, then grew up to become a teacher who murdered and mutilated five homeless people. Half of the sample group was asked how likely this fictional character was a religious believer, while the other half were asked how likely he or she was an atheist. The results were noteworthy.
Overall, respondents were twice as likely to identify the teacher as an atheist, and in every country—including the two secular countries where results were deemed “inconclusive”—the respondents also were more likely to say the murderer was an atheist. Even self-described atheists were more likely to ascribe the vile actions of the fictional character to a fellow atheist.
Writing as though this was a “dangerous bias,” the researchers concluded:
Combined, these results show that across the world, religious belief is intuitively viewed as a necessary safeguard against the temptations of grossly immoral conduct, and atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous. Viewed differently, people perceive belief in a god as a sufficient moral buffer to inhibit immoral behaviour …
[O]ur findings reveal widespread suspicion that morality requires belief in a god. For many people, including many atheists, the answer to Dostoevsky’s 18 question “Without God … It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?” is “Yes”, inasmuch as ‘everything’ refers to acts of extreme immorality …
Consistent with predictions derived from cultural evolutionary theories of religion and morality, extreme intuitive moral distrust of atheists is evident globally, among believers and atheists in both religious and secular societies. Even as secularism reduces overt religiosity in many places, religion has apparently still left a deep and abiding mark on human moral intuitions.
Of course, we already knew that. As Romans 1:18-20 (NKJV) points out:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,